Victory over Satan had a great repercussion all over the supernatural realm. Some versions proclaimed that, based on the trial, heavenly officials were given instructions on how to defeat evil. Other versions, clearly fantastic, gave accounts of many attempts of revolts in Hell, promptly squashed by demons in charge of order enforcement.
Amidst the major Incarnations of Immortality, there was much to celebrate. Gaia gave a formidable luncheon to honor both Death and Fate. The happy couple could hardly contain their joy.
'Satan had to go back down empty handed!', roared Chronos. He laughed exceedingly loud.
'It was a fine battle,' conceded Mars. 'My evil friend will be nursing his wounds for quite a while!'
Gaia served some more homebrewed ale all around, asking, 'Are you sure you didn't plan on that, Thanatos? It was wonderfully played.'
Severus said, 'I did not plan any of that, I swear. I had never imagined my sacrifice could come to such good results.'
'That is remarkable,' Mother Nature said, raising her glass. 'A toast to that!'
All others copied the gesture, with a traditional 'Hear, hear!' The spirits were really up, even Mars, who was known to be in good terms with Satan.
After the party, Severus took Hermione home to the Abode so she and her sisters could celebrate in quiet, on their own. But that was not to be.
They hadn't yet gotten inside the Abode when a small guy in glasses and a business suit approached them, 'Oh, good, you are together. I am looking for the both of you. May I have your attention, please?'
Severus asked, 'May I ask who you are, sir?'
The short guy showed them a briefcase and said, 'My name is Montgomery and I work for the office of Justice. Are you the Incarnations of Death and Fate?'
'Really?' asked Severus, suddenly devoid of patience. He raised the characteristic scythe of the Grim Reaper and asked, 'Could there be any doubt?'
He cringed, 'Sorry, but I have to follow protocol. I am here to collect you both. There are some papers to sign, regarding the audience with Lady Justice.'
Hermione repeated, 'Papers? What papers?'
The man shrugged, 'Oh, just the usual judicial bureaucracy. Are you ready?'
Severus asked, 'Ready for what?'
In a heartbeat, he saw himself in a totally white environment, Hermione by his side. She was so surprised at being taken away that she grabbed his arm.
The brightness in the room helped them to feel a bit disoriented. But Severus somehow knew they were not in danger. In a few seconds, their eyes got used to the light and they realized they were in some sort of office.
The decoration was sober, Severus noticed, bordering on minimalist, although it was quite spacious. There were two big executive desks, a conference table capable of accommodating twelve, a sofa of pristine white cushions and a few office cupboards that were as far from Ikea as they were from the Earth. It was modern, yet cozy and welcoming, in extremely good taste.
The small guy smiled at them and said, pointing to the nice white sofa, 'You can sit right there if you wish. His Highness will be with you in a moment.'
And left, leaving them alone before they even thought of questioning him. Alone in that beautiful office, Severus and Hermione looked at each other.
'What was that?' asked Hermione. 'Where are we?'
Severus tried to calm her down, 'I know as much as you do, but everything will be all right. Don't worry.'
'Aren't you worried?' Hermione was surprised. 'You? A former super spy?'
Severus didn't hide his own surprise. 'I know, and I am as surprised as you are. But I have a good feeling about it, and I don't know why.'
A voice came from behind them explaining, 'This is a very different environment than what you are used.'
They turned their heads to see Metraton, the Prince Archangel also known as "The Voice of God", smiling at them. He was dressed in an impeccably white suit, his wavy blond hair and blue eyes seemed to sparkle. Severus nodded, Greetings, sir.'
The entity's smile was contagious. 'I am so glad you could come. Sorry about the ruse. Please have a seat.'
After both were seated, Severus said, 'So I guess we are not here to sign the judicial papers.'
'No, indeed,' confirmed the celestial being. 'After everything that transpired, the Almighty felt you two deserved an explanation, one that could impart to you the just measure of the accomplishment of your actions.'
Hermione frowned, 'I don't understand.'
The archangel smiled beatifically. 'Of course you don't, my child. Yet right now the heavens celebrate your victory more vigorously than you could ever know.'
The emphasis of his words took both of them by surprise. 'Is that so?'
In a professorial manner, the Voice of God explained, 'If memory serves, mortals believe human souls go to heaven or hell according to their individual deeds and purity of heart. Those who help their fellow brothers and soothe the suffering of others are candidates to a place in heaven; those who think only of themselves and do harm to others secure a place in eternal damnation. Isn't it right?'
Hermione was curious. 'It is not?'
Metraton gently cocked him head, 'It is, to an extent. But the truth is, and it may surprise you, that the accomplishments of some souls are more dear and meaningful than others.'
Severus rose an eyebrow, 'Oh?'
The angel also looked surprised. 'I know; shocking, isn't it? But picture it from this angle: imagine a man born in a comfortable home, with loving parents, religious information and a good heart. Such a man would be halfway to heaven, wouldn't he? But now imagine if his soul could be corrupted to a point to jeopardize his eternal life. His fall would have a deeper meaning than of a man, say, that was raised in a bad neighborhood, with quarreling parents, exposed to evil as an ordinary occurrence. Can you see how souls have different meanings in the eternal balance?'
'Yes,' said Hermione, and she looked amazed. 'But I never thought about it.'
'Few do,' nodded the Voice of God. 'But that is why sometimes the Almighty and the Foul One focus on particular souls. They pay attention to those souls hoping they can beat their own odds. When they do, it is quite a victory.'
Severus said, 'So I imagine that the damnation of Hermione's soul would have been a big defeat of the good guys.'
They exchanged looks and smiles, holding hands. Severus felt as if falling in love with her all over again, knowing that now she was safe from Satan's clutches.
'Oh, no doubt about it,' confirmed the archangel. 'Hermione's soul would have been a remarkable prize. But this was never about her, my child. From the beginning, it has always been about you.'
That was a surprise, and one that Severus never expected. 'Me? No, that can't be right.'
The beatified smile was there again. 'The battle for your soul, Severus, began right after you were born. You had your mother's love and your father's abuse. Then you felt true love for Lily, and lost it when you joined the Dark Lord's ranks. You tried to save her and failed. You almost killed yourself and then became an Incarnation of Immortality. Your soul has walked a fine line for so long. And then came Hermione. Satan was obsessed with her because of you. That was his only true motivation.'
Hermione paled. 'What does it mean, exactly?'
The heavenly prince looked discomfiting for the first time. 'I am afraid Satan does not follow the rules. He had known for a long time that Hermione held the key to Severus's soul. Damning her would damn him irrevocably. So he made several attempts. He began by murdering Ronald Weasley.'
There was a loud gasp from Hermione. Severus saw she turning so pale he feared she could faint right on the spot. Her eyes were rimmed with tears, and he looked at her with a mute question. She whispered, 'I am all right.'
Clearly, she was not, thought Severus. He held her hand to comfort her.
Metraton went on, 'When Hermione almost killed herself to beg for her husband's life, she was dangerously close to jeopardizing her eternal soul. Fortunately, the worse was avoided. By that time, the former aspect of Clotho started to feel restless and longing for a shot at mortal life again. She really looked forward into being a mother.'
She brightened up. 'That was how I became Clotho!'
'When Satan heard what happened, he was possessed,' said Metraton. 'Sorry for the pun.'
'Why was he so angry?'
The angel counter asked, 'Why do you think? Satan wanted to bring you two apart, otherwise he would lose his soul. He was so certain Severus was already his.'
'So,' said Severus, 'he never really lusted after Hermione.'
'No,' guaranteed Metatron. 'It was a cruel way to intimidate Hermione. First, Satan wanted her to quit the job as Fate. Then, when he realized she would not quit, he schemed to keep you from falling in love with each other. That failed miserably, too.'
Severus said, 'But he didn't know that. He thought we were having affairs behind Chronos's back.'
'His cleverly thought ploy failed because he miscalculated the love you had for each other. That one could never really understand true love. Once Satan failed to prevent you from becoming an Incarnation of Immortality, he tried all tricks. He was truly desperate to keep Severus from redeeming himself, but in his schemes and stratagems he could never realize how much Severus loved you. That was his mistake. It was almost the same mistake that led to the downfall of his famous pupil, Lord Voldemort.'
Severus was happy to hear that. 'Really?'
'It is true,' said Hermione. 'The love Professor Sinistra held for her fiancé gave her strength to spy Voldemort all those years and give Harry the advantage to kill the Dark Lord.'
'And I thought she had betrayed Dumbledore,' said Severus. 'I hope she is resting in a nice place.'
Metatron raised both eyebrows and shrugged. 'Maybe she'll be, after a short stint in Purgatory. You two, of course, don't have to be concerned with any of that. The Almighty appreciates your services and wishes to reward both of you accordingly.'
'But we still can fall,' reminded Hermione. 'Like Severus said, there is no immunity. Right?'
Metatron cringed a bit. 'Well... not immunity. It's just that you have been given eternity at last.'
Severus frowned. 'What does it mean?'
Metatron smiled at him. 'Right now Death has another face, my friend.' He turned to Hermione and nodded, 'And so does Clotho. Didn't you notice the absence of your sister aspects?'
Hermione was shocked, for she had not realized being alone again in her mind. They looked at each other, still unsure.
'But this means...' started Severus.
The archangel looked so happy he positively glowed. 'Yes, my friends, it means what you think, indeed.'
Hermione was awed. 'Oh, my God!'
'Yes, that is Him.' Metatron smiled and said, 'He bids you welcome to Heaven.'
Severus looked at the prince from Heaven, to see if he was pulling their legs. It didn't look like it.
Metatron opened his arms towards an extremely well-lit door (which definitely wasn't there before, noticed Severus) and said, solemnly, with a faint echo, 'Say hello to eternity.'
That was huge, and Severus knew it. That was it, the ultimate goal of all lives: eternal bliss, living among the angels and all other blessed beings until the end of times. He should be happy about it.
But he was not. Well, he was happy, but for other reasons.
Severus was not concerned with eternity. Hermione was at by his side and that was all that mattered to him. She was with him until the end of times, and that was his definition of eternal bliss.
Hermione looked at him, joyfully grinning. His heart melted at the sight of her lovely face, her tiny button nose, her bright, beautiful eyes. She glowed, smiling at him, as she offered him her hand, inviting, 'Shall we, my love?'
That was Heaven, Severus realized, smiling back at her.
'Of course, my love.'
All was well, Severus thought, as he stepped into the light, gladly following Hermione. His heart was beating so fast he thought it might explode.
This was it. Happiness. That was as good as good could ever be.
Severus thought of how new all this was for him. And it was pretty fine. He could get used to it.
He would have enough time for that.